International NGOs are once again pillorying the Algerian justice and security services for the violation of the rights of activists who have been unjustly sentenced to prison terms for crimes they did not commit.
Several individuals accused of having participated in an unlawful assembly while being armed and of acts of violence against the police, in Laghouat, southern Algeria, last June 8, were convicted after an unfair trial. According to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and Human Rights Watch, the defendants “did not have the opportunity to rebut the evidence presented against them” at the trial.
For the two NGOs, the court based its ruling on the testimony of the police that did not establish a crystal clear proof as to the defendants’ participation in the acts of violence allegedly committed during the demonstration in Laghouat.
Courts “should determine the criminal responsibility of the defendants by giving each one of them the opportunity to refute the evidence presented against them, instead of applying what appears to be a willingness to make someone pay at all costs,” said EMHRN president Michel Tubiana.
One of the defendants said the judges gave their ruling on the basis of the accounts of security agents who claimed having been injured by protesters. None of the evidence presented established that any of the defendants were directly involved in acts of violence or damage to property, he added.
Besides, the written judgment does not mention any evidence incriminating the defendants individually. “The mere fact to be a militant in the absence of any proof that you have committed a crime or even that you were close to the spot of events should not result in a sentence to imprisonment,” said for his part, Eric Goldstein, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch.